Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum

Nestled within St. Mary's Hospital, this museum is dedicated to the life and work of Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish scientist who is best known for his discovery of penicillin.

Visitors to the museum can learn about the fascinating life and career of Fleming, who was born in 1881 in Ayrshire, Scotland. After completing his medical degree at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, Fleming served in the Army Medical Corps during World War I, where he witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of infection on soldiers.

Upon returning to civilian life, Fleming began working at St. Mary's Hospital as a researcher, where he conducted a series of experiments that would ultimately lead to his discovery of penicillin.

In 1928, upon returning from holiday (and leaving his work area in a untidy fashion) Fleming noticed that a mould called Penicillium notatum had grown on a dish of bacteria he had left out in his lab. Upon further investigation, he found that the mould had killed the bacteria, and he realised that this could potentially be used to treat bacterial infections in humans.

This discovery was groundbreaking, as it marked the beginning of the era of antibiotics and revolutionised the field of medicine. Penicillin was able to cure many types of bacterial infections that had previously been untreatable, and it saved countless lives during World War II and beyond.

The museum also showcases some of Fleming's personal belongings and research equipment, providing a unique glimpse into the life and work of this pioneering scientist. In addition to its exhibits, the museum offers a range of educational programs and events, including lectures, workshops, and guided tours.

Look out for…

  • The laboratory in which penicillin was discovered and the equipment Fleming used
  • One of the ceramic culture vessels — used at the William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford where penicillin was developed in the early 1940s by Howard Florey and his team of scientists including the biochemist Ernst Chain. It is based on the design of a bedpan
  • Fleming’s mould medallions — given to such diverse people as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Marlene Dietrich
  • A 1922 cartoon showing children queuing to be thrashed to produce a tear antiseptic relating to Fleming’s discovery of the enzyme lysozyme
  • The very first microscope Fleming owned as a medical student

Did you know?…

  • Alexander Fleming was born on a hill farm in Darvel, Ayrshire, but lived in London from the age of 14, entered St Mary’s as a medical school in 1901 and was still working there when he died in 1955
  • Fleming’s head of department and mentor Sir Almroth Wright was known as ‘Sir Almost Right’ and ‘Sir Always Wrong’ when he tried to revolutionise medicine with his vaccine therapy.
  • The 1945 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to Alexander Fleming for the discovery of penicillin and to Howard Florey and Ernst Chain for its development.
  • Fleming was honoured by the Kiowa tribe with the title Chief Doy-Gei-Taun ‘ (‘Maker of Great Medicine’)
  • Penicillin was honoured as the most important medical advance of the twentieth century by the Republic of San Marino
  • The Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum has been designated as an Historical Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry

Museum Facilities


Audio Guide

Wheelchair Access


Tour Guide




Venue Hire

All information is drawn from or provided by the museums themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.